On June 11 at the UBC-hosted International Student Energy Summit (ISES), Nobel Peace Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri gave the keynote address.
Pachauri is the Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In 2007, on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel, he accepted the Noble Peace Prize with former US Vice President Al Gore.
His career has included being the director of the Energy and Resources Institute and director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute.
While Pachauri’s life is now nearly entirely devoted to climate change, that wasn’t always the case. His career began in his home country of India where studied to be a mechanical engineer.
In an interview with The Ubyssey at ISES, he said there was no particular occasion in his life that caused him to focus on climate change, but he noted the importance of keeping an open mind and adapting in a world that is constantly changing.
“You’ve got to be sensitive to all the changes taking place around you and of what the future beckons you towards…Take one step at a time, but make sure that the length of that step is as large as you can possibly make it,” he said.
Pachauri quoted Mahatma Gandhi several times in his speech to the ISES.
“He was a man ahead of his time. He’s had a major influence in my thinking and in defining some of my value systems and I quote him extensively whenever I get the opportunity,” said Pachauri. “I find it so relevant to a large range of situations. He literally saw it all. He understood where we were going and what we needed to do to get off that beaten track.”
Pachauri also talked about his experience accepting the Nobel Prize with Al Gore.
“I feel that Al being there was complementary, because we produce the science and he’s been very effective at absorbing it and disseminating it. So it was symbolic of the kind of linkage and interdependence that exists between these two areas of human endeavors,” he said. “To be with him was really a nice feeling.”
Pachauri was full of advice for UBC students and the university itself. As UBC pursues becoming a world leader in sustainability, he emphasized the importance of practicing what the university preaches. He suggested setting specific sustainability goals for the next few years and working to achieve them. In the process, UBC would “learn by doing,” along with helping to solve the global problem of climate change. By the university taking the first steps, he believes that it will further influence both the community and graduates of UBC.
“[They would] carry a certain belief and philosophy that they could implement in their own careers. The multiplied effects could be enormous,” he said.
In quoting Ghandi again, he advised students on how to best make an impact on climate change.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
—with files from Micki Cowan